This was originally posted on atlimbo.net as a guest post, but I wrote it so figured I’d also post it on here.
We can all agree 2017 was pretty shitty overall. Everyone has multiple stories of how they got screwed in some way or other. I hate making New Year’s Resolutions, but I just happened to (this past month) start working on a game plan to get my shit together. So, I guess this is my New Year’s Resolution checklist.
Get my finances in order —
I have this ability to be really responsible and great when it’s not my money. Case in point, I was a Treasurer for a somewhat large political organization. I helped them raise more money in the year and a half I was in charge of the finances then the entire history of the organization, multiplied by two or three. So yeah, wasn’t my money to spend so I found ways to earn and keep the money incoming and not have as much outgoing.
I’m also great at managing currency in whatever video game I happen to be playing. I hoard money, find ways to make money, etc, you name it. I can roam around for hours in World of Warcraft, Skyrim, or Fallout 4 just picking flowers, mining ore, and fighting monsters and then go turn in everything for whatever the currency is. Too bad I can’t do that in real life.
In real life, when it comes to my own personal finances, I’m pretty shitty. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m completely shitty. I have managed to never (up until this month) make a late payment, or if it was late it was only a day late so it wouldn’t count against my credit score. I’ve never defaulted on a loan, in fact I paid off my five year car loan in which I was paying more than my current rent each month in exactly five years. I still have one student loan that I make payments on.
My main issue is credit cards, like so many people. For many years I moved a lot for school, had jobs that paid me well below the poverty level, and for a good two years was pretty much unemployed during the time where the unemployment crisis was at its worse. How did I manage to pay rent, buy food, and put gas in my car? Credit cards. I hate borrowing money from my mother, and really try to not do it that, but she has definitely bailed me out over the years and I do appreciate her for that more than she probably realizes. So, whenever a store offered me a credit card, a lot of times I’d take it so I could pay for the stuff I’d need. However, those credit cards would end up giving me more credit than what I needed and I would use them again and again before I could pay down the original balance. And then I’d have to pay the minimum amount each month on all my credit cards and the total was getting more and more each month. And then I’d have less and less available each month to pay my bills so it started becoming whatever bills I could pay with credit card instead of my bank account would be paid using a credit card once I paid off enough of the card with its minimum payment so it wasn’t maxed out. It was a sad, revolving cycle that I was unable to really get out of.
I had hoped when June came around I would have a bit more leeway overall in my finances. As of June I had officially paid off my car so in theory I had $450 extra each month. I had about two months where I didn’t worry about my finances. I made payments more than the minimum on almost all my cards and loans. I didn’t have to pay for everything on credit cards. I could go out a few times a month and not worry if I’d have enough money to pay my bills the next month. And then October came.
A little background, I have a full time job working from home as Quality Assurance for a Telecommunications company. I also had a job working for one of those ‘online work at home’ companies where you rate the quality of search engine results. This second job was comforting extra income.
In October, I was told the main contract I was working on for the search engine program was closing. They had gathered all the information they needed and no longer needed my services. I was devastated. That job gave me nearly $1000 a month when I really applied myself and worked everyday on it. Since I paid off my car, I wasn’t working it as much, because I didn’t need it as much. I kick myself now that I didn’t apply myself more and save up the money – you know, like a fiscally responsible adult.
I knew I would be in hot water in the coming months. I was lucky enough to get a raise at my full time job, but as I calculated my earnings and my bills I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d actually fall behind. In a way I started my New Year’s Resolution early. I decided to to figure out a way fix my finances in the long run instead of patching it with bandaids month by month.
I ended up finding a debt relief program; they pretty much close your credit cards and you pay one lump sum a month to pay off your debt within a few years. Another five-ish year plan for me, but I have to start somewhere.
On top of paying down my debt with that program, part of getting my finances in order is cutting back to the bare minimum – finding where I can save money. I cancelled subscriptions, downgraded services, and made myself a strict budget. I’m cutting the Cable cord and switching to all streaming services to save my roommate and I about $40 a month ($20 each). Doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re living on such a tight budget that $20 means a lot.
The Obligatory Lose Weight/Work Out More Resolution —
The past couple months I’ve been less physically active. I’ve had chronic back pain for the past 5 years but have always managed to find exercise I can do despite the pain. However in October (what the hell did October have against me?), I managed to hurt my knee thanks to a trip to the local dog park with Bentley. I went to physical therapy for a month and they ordered an MRI for me. And, of course, my health insurance wouldn’t cover it without hitting a deductible first. And as you can probably assume from my first resolution, I didn’t have a spare $20 laying around, let alone the $880 it would cost for an MRI.
Because of this, possible current outcomes are 1) hope for my knee to get better on its own, 2) continue to be in pain but it not get any better, or 3) shit hits the fan and it gets so bad I get sent to the ER. In the meantime, I haven’t been able to work out at all. Because of this, I’ve gained weight. I was never an ideal weight to begin with but now I’m up quite a bit. So, my 2018 goal is to find something, anything, that I can do with both chronic back pain and an injured knee. I’ll be scouring the workout programs I already own and utilizing the Beachbody On Demand that my company provides. I’d like to find a routine I can do every morning.
Cut out the things that don’t make me happy or that give me unnecessary stress —
This seems far more deep than I actually intended. This is far more superficial than what you might think, I promise.
I play games on my phone. I get heavily obsessed with RTS (Real Time Strategy) games that end up taking hours out of my everyday. I do these more out of a feeling of obligation to the time I’ve already put into them versus actually enjoying them.
I like games in which you build things and research things and gather items. I normally play World of Warcraft, Skyrim, and Fallout, but I will get sucked into a phone game and it ends up taking so much time that I can’t play all of the other games that I have because there’s no pause in RTS, they are always going on no matter what.
There’s one game in particular that I’ve been playing I’ve been playing for nearly 2 years. Everyday when I’d wake up, I’d check my multiple castles and again before bed. I’d also during the day get online and make sure everything was good or even play random events. I no longer enjoy it, but I also don’t want all that time and effort to go to waste. So, I’m giving my castles away. I tend to keep with things I deem as obligations much longer than I should, and definitely past when I still find enjoyment from them.
Already I have one person in the game willing to take my main account, but I have 2 secondary accounts to deal with. This game has become yet another stressful obligation that I simply don’t need. I’ll have more time during my day to do other things I actually enjoy and not lose sleep over worry that I didn’t shield a castle at night.
I don’t want to set myself up for failure by choosing more than three things to work on; and honestly I started working on these before the turn of the new year, so I have some momentum already.
I believe the easiest ones will be cutting out stressors and fixing my finances. Once my gaming accounts are given successfully to other people I can uninstall games and be done with it. As for the finances, I’ve already gotten into the debt relief program; now it’s just a matter of always being aware of how much money I have before I attempt to spend it – no impromptu outings or shopping trips this year.
Of course, keeping to a strict budget could also help with my ‘obligatory weight loss resolution’. I will have to consistently figure out a basic menu before grocery shopping so nothing goes to waste!
I may be setting the bar somewhat low for myself concerning what I want to accomplish in the coming year, but after 2017 was so miserable, I feel giving myself a lobbed up softball might be just what I need.